On Monday morning, the Supreme Court ruled after a long wait in the case of the NCAA v. Alston, which sought to answer the question of whether the NCAA’s prohibition on compensation for college athletes violates federal antitrust law.
As the topic of name, image and likeness is a hot-button issue in college sports these days, many were expecting the ruling to potentially bring about major changes in the way collegiate athletes can be compensated.
Although the ruling was a unanimous 9-0 in favor of Shawne Alston, a former running back at West Virginia University, it was quite narrow in its scope. In essence, the ruling’s key point is that the NCAA can’t enforce certain rules limiting the education-related benefits such as computers and internships that colleges offer athletes.
The ruling did not in any way fundamentally change rules on name, image and likeness, although many observers opined Monday that it will likely open the door for further cracking of the amateurism model the NCAA has long been able to uphold.
“Alston probably speeds up movement on an NCAA resolution on Name, Image and Likeness rights if it wasn’t moving at high speed already,” Steven Bank, a sports law professor at UCLA, wrote on Twitter Monday.
I would add that Alston probably speeds up movement on an NCAA resolution on Name, Image and Likeness rights if it wasn’t moving at high speed already https://t.co/lcQO0Sg888— Steven Bank (@ProfBank) June 21, 2021
In a statement made after the ruling, the NCAA said, “While today’s decision preserves the lower court ruling, it also reaffirms the NCAA’s authority to adopt reasonable rules and repeatedly notes that the NCAA remains free to articulate what are and are not truly educational benefits, consistent with the NCAA’s mission to support student-athletes.”
Within that statement, NCAA president Mark Emmert was quite open in addressing his stance on NIL, even as Monday’s decision did not formally rule on it.
“Even though the decision does not directly address name, image and likeness, the NCAA remains committed to supporting NIL benefits for student-athletes,” Emmert said. “Additionally, we remain committed to working with Congress to chart a path forward, which is a point the Supreme Court expressly stated in its ruling.”
Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger reported comments from a number of members of Congress on the ruling, as that body has been debating an NIL bill (a number of states have their own NIL bills, some of which are set to go into effect as soon as July 1.
Blumenthal: "Unanimous Supreme Court decisions are rare, particularly for this court. There will be additional force as a result of this one. 'Force' meaning not only legal persuasiveness but also practical support for athletes rights."— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) June 21, 2021
Sen. Maria Cantwell, the most powerful lawmaker in Congress when it comes to NIL, says the SCOTUS ruling “gives new urgency” to bi-partisan negotiations and she specifically cites, as Blumenthal does, the additional health benefits she wants to see in an NIL bill.— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) June 21, 2021
Sen. Cory Booker, integral to bi-partisan talks, on SCOTUS ruling. pic.twitter.com/lNvzzgovhD— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) June 21, 2021